August 2017 website improvements

Suzie Blackman
Saturday, 19 August 2017

It often surprises people how much time and I spend beavering away on I am a web designer and developer by profession, and I’ve also run several websites as personal projects over the years, but It’s a Stitch Up is by far the biggest and most popular. Having created it from the ground up and nurtured it for almost 10 years, I spend countless hours considering every detail and making it as good as it can be, constrained only by my limited free time (unlike professional projects which are constrained by so many things, and always involve compromise).

I wanted to share just a couple of the ‘details’ I have improved recently.

Improved yarn information

As we’ve gone from producing small, one-off batches of hand-dyed yarn, to a carefully curated set of ethically sourced yarn lines ethically in a range of repeatable colours, the function of the shop pages have changed considerably. I wanted more space to share what makes each yarn special, and make it easier to see colour options and other details.

New yarn line pages

Take a look at the page for our signature yarn, Favourite Sock to see it in action.

Here’s what’s changed:

  • We’ve added information about yarn provenance in the “About” section at the top
  • The “Specifications” tab has suggested tension, needle size, yardage and care instructions as well as further details about where the fleece is farmed and spun
  • The “Patterns” tab shows all of our patterns that are suitable for this yarn
  • Every shade is visible without having to scroll through several pages, so it’s easy to compare colours, and you can preview and buy right from here
  • Below the shades there’s a section showing the clubs, yarn + kits and value packs available for this yarn.
  • We’ve made layout improvements for phones and small-screen devices

Pattern skill level ratings

When I originally came up with the skill level gradings for It’s a Stitch Up patterns I based them on those listed on Yarn Standards – in theory a sensible decision as these are something of an industry standard (though far from universally adopted). They’re easy to apply because they are simply based on the stitches and techniques used in the pattern (for example knitting-in-the-round falls under ‘intermediate’ while short rows are considered ‘advanced’). However these ratings never quite sat right with me or the patterns I want to create. ‘Advanced’ and ‘intermediate’ are likely to be off-putting to a novice as they suggest that the techniques involved are difficult, when the truth is that very few things in knitting are difficult (and in my mind, short rows and circular knitting don’t fall into that category at all. While keeping place in a complex chart might be a challenge for a novice knitter, the adventurous beginner would have no trouble with basic lace or cabling. Confession time: I have never done a long-tail cast on (scandalous, I know). I’m sure I’d find it a bit tricky the first time, but that doesn’t mean it’s an advanced technique or that I shouldn’t consider myself an experienced knitter.

Conversely, just because a design has only knit and purl stitches does not mean it’s written from the beginner perspective. Indeed commercial patterns can seem willfully obtuse to the beginner, and offer assistance with things like tension and seaming.

With this in mind I have reclassified all my patterns using the following categories:

Beginner ●○○○ – these patterns are written from the beginner perspective. They assume only knowledge of basic knit and purl stitches and cashing on and off. But, they’re designed to extend your knowledge and offer plenty of hand-holding for new techniques.

Easy ●●○○ – classic designs featuring well-known stitch patterns and simple-but-professional finishing techniques. They’re ideal for curious beginners, and experienced knitters looking for a relaxing knit.

Enthusiast ●●●○ – patterns that feature quirky design details and use techniques that are straightforward but interesting or unusual. They’re designed to be approachable for the adventurous novice while also being a satisfying knit for the more experienced knitter.

Adventurous ●●●● – these patterns combine several techniques and are designed to pique the interest of the experienced knitter. They assume familiarity with cabling, Fair Isle or lace, but include instructions for more unusual techniques. Adventurous knitters of all abilities should find these patterns approachable, but they may need your concentration.

I hope that you too will find these an improvement and I would love your feedback!

The author

Suzie Blackman

The dyer, designer, photographer, creative technologist and maker-of-things behind It's a Stitch Up. She lives in East London in a home filled with colour, fluff and house plants.

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